US entry strengthens Christchurch Call Community Movement

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Virtual Global Summit on May 15 (NZT) with leaders and stakeholders

Venkat Raman
Auckland, May 9, 2021

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron (AFP 2019 Anadolu Agency)

The decision of the Joe Biden administration to join the ‘Christchurch Call Community’ will undoubtedly strengthen the Movement in its efforts to end terrorism and extremism that is rising in many parts of the world.

Jen Psaki, a Spokesperson for the Biden Administration, said on Friday (May 7, 2021) in Washington DC that the United States would join the ‘Christchurch Call.’

“Countering the use of the internet by terrorists and violent extremists to radicalise and recruit is a significant priority for the United States. Joining the coalition of governments and companies that have endorsed the Christchurch Call to Action reinforces the need for collective action,” she said in a Statement.

She said that the US will join the Summit (details hereunder) to be held on May 14 CEST (Central European Summer Time) corresponding to May 15 NZT (New Zealand Time).

Arden, Macron welcome move

Earlier, under the Donald Trump administration, the US had rejected the call and refuse to be enlisted as a member country of the Christchurch Call Community.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the decision of President Biden, saying that the US has been “constructive, engaged partner on many Call-related issues since its launch” and that the announcement was a “formalisation of that relationship and a commitment for us to work even more closely.”

People being escorted out of the Police cordon on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch (RNZ Picture by Simon Rogers)

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been a staunch supporter of the Christchurch Call also welcomed the US decision, saying that the challenge of the Christchurch Call cannot be addressed wholly within the confines of one country’s rules and regulations.

“The United States has long been a critically important ally in shared efforts against terrorism and violent extremism. Its formal support of the Christchurch Call is a welcome extension of that long-held partnership,” he said.

The Christchurch Massacre

Following the Christchurch Massacre in which an Australian terrorist gunned down 51 Muslim men, women and children offering their Friday prayers at two Mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019, Ms Ardern had called on world leaders, mass media giants and the international community to get together and fight terrorism and extremising.

French President Emmanuel Macron joined the move and the two leaders initiated the ‘Christchurch Call Community Consultation Report’ on May 15, 2019.

The two governments carried out a Survey of the Call Community to determine the ways in which supporters were fulfilling their commitments to the Christchurch Call. The Survey led to the Christchurch Call Community Consultation Report.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comforting a Muslim woman in Christchurch on March 16, 2019 (Picture Supplied)

Misuse of electronic platforms

In their Final Report, Ms Ardern and Mr Macron said that the misuse of the internet to promote terrorism and violent extremism is an issue that transcends borders.

“It reaches into our social networks, our communities, and our families, and has real impacts in the offline world. When a terrorist opened fire in two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (on March 15, 2019), 51 Muslim worshippers lost their lives. Dozens more were seriously injured. The attack was livestreamed in an attempt to subvert the technology platforms that we use to connect to instead push messages of hate and extremist ideology. Left unchecked, this kind of abuse of the internet risks inciting more real world terrorist acts,” they said in the Report.

Among the supporters of the Christchurch Call to Action are various governments, member-countries of the G20 and G7 Groups, the Aqaba Process established by the Kingdom of Jordan and many others.

The Virtual Summit

Ms Arden and Mr Macron will jointly chair a virtual summit of world leaders on May 15 NZT and May 14 (CEST) 2021, marking the second anniversary of the Christchurch Call Report.

Among the participants will be leaders of the supporting governments, tech companies and the civil society. 

Ms Ardern said that New Zealand expects the Call Community to refine its focus, redouble its efforts, and agree to a priority work plan for the year ahead.

“The inaugural Christchurch Call Community Consultation Report provides the foundation for this work. Among the priorities that I would like to see progressed is a strengthened collective ability to manage crises related to terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Al Noor Islamic Centre, one of the Mosques in Christchurch where the massacre occurred on March 15, 2020 (AFP Photo)

“I would like to see us grow our shared understanding of algorithmic processes that have the potential to cause harm, or to radicalise or incite to acts of terrorism and violent extremism.  And to develop positive interventions to address these,” she said.

Mr Macron said that increased transparency on methods used to moderate harmful online content, from companies and governments, will underpin the commitment to uphold fundamental internet freedoms.

“A strengthened Call Community is critical to our enduring success.  It needs to support and empower its members to engage in direct, constructive dialogue on issues of substance, support each other to do better and, where necessary, hold each other to account on delivery of the Call,” he said.

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